Taliban fighters have captured five provincial capitals in Afghanistan since Friday in a lightning offensive that seems to have overwhelmed pro-government forces.
The Islamist group has been seizing much of the countryside since May, coinciding with the start of the final stages of withdrawal of foreign forces, and has now taken its fight to key cities.
In the northeast of the country, Kunduz, Sar-e-Pol and Taloqan fell on Sunday. In a statement, the Taliban confirmed its capture of police headquarters, the governor’s compound and the prison in Kunduz.
The capture of Kunduz is a symbolic victory as the city is a strategic political and military hub close to the Tajikistan border, also used to smuggle Afghan opium and heroin. The Taliban held the city briefly in 2015 and in 2016.
The militant group seized the provinces of Nimruz and Jawzjan on Saturday.
There has been no agreement for a ceasefire between the Taliban and the government, a spokesperson for the Taliban told Al Jazeera, warning against further US intervention.
On Saturday night, the US launched airstrikes to support the Afghan military in the capital of the Jawzjan province, Sheberghan. Taliban militants were killed according to Afghan military officials.
Government forces are fighting to retake key installations, according to the ministry of defence. Many civilians are reported to have already fled the captured cities.
The cities of Herat in the west and Kandahar and Lashkar Gah in the south are also seeing heavy fighting.
The withdrawal of foreign forces, including American troops, is due to conclude ahead of the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks in 2001, which sparked the US-led invasion of Afghanistan and topped the first Taliban regime.
After two decades of military operations, the departure of international troops has led to an escalation in violence as the Taliban’s offensives have intensified.